It was in early 1987 that I first met Dr. Usharbudh Arya, who later took monastic vows to become Swami Veda Bharati. This meeting occurred at a Yoga Sutras seminar Dr. Arya was teaching in the San Francisco area, and I felt an instant and deep connection with him. To me, he was a perfect teacher: humble, grounded, with great depth of knowledge and absolute integrity.
After that first meeting I longed to see him again, and more than a year later I was able travel to his home, in Dehradun, India, for this purpose. One day, Dr. Arya asked me join him on a walk, and while we strolled along a busy city street, he gently glanced at me and said, "Life is composed of packets of pain and pleasure; you can't have one without the other. You've been trying to have only pleasure, and it doesn't work."
His words caught me by surprise. I felt like he saw right through me, to the core of my personality, and knew more about me than I knew about myself. Although I'd never thought about it before, I knew his words were true. In trying to avoid the pain inherent in life, I was avoiding many activities that are essential parts of life.
Not wanting to endure the unpleasant parts of a career, I was endlessly searching for the perfect career. Not wanting the challenges that come with relationships, I was searching for the perfect relationship. As a result, I had neither career nor relationship. There were other areas of life I was missing out on too, for the same essential reason.
Over the years since that walk in Dehradun, as I've contemplated Dr. Arya's wise words, it's become clear that everything, every activity, has its pains, and that to live in a healthy way, this pain has to be accepted as part of life. Once this is done, then one can also experience the pleasures life offers. Not accepting life's inherent pain dooms one to live unhappily on life's periphery, in even greater pain.